Saturday, April 1, 2023

THROWN BY A CURVE – The Fluid Architecture of Villas San Sebastian

As anyone who reads my blogs or Facebook posts knows, Sally and I have a thing for Zihuatanejo, Guerrero, Mexico. We’ve been coming here annually—but for a COVID break—for fifteen years now.

We love the reliably warm, sunny climate this time of year—a brief, but spectacular respite from the last month of winter back home. We love the colors, the flavors, the language and the kind, gracious, hardworking people who live here.

And we love Villas San Sebastian (VSS), our home away from home every March, and where we’ve lodged many of our loved ones when they’ve visited. Our hosts all these years, Luis Valle Rodriguez and his lovely wife Marissa, have become our dear friends.

As vital as the personal relationships are, they aren’t the only reason we find VSS so appealing. There’s also the architecture, the physical and esthetic character of the place.

It’s the way these buildings respect and celebrate their breathtaking natural surroundings. All open on at least one side, the villas seem to invite the embrace
of Nature—the sounds and smells, the mild Pacific breezes, the spectacular view
of Zihuatanejo Bay.

It could not look or feel more different from most of the accommodations in Zihua’s neighbor up the road, Ixtapa, with its rampart of high-rise hotels.

           It’s really hard to find a sharp, right-
           angle corner or edge in whole place.

While many of the higher-end boutique hotels that dot the perimeter of Zihua Bay are doused in gold, salmon, sage, even purple, VSS is not especially colorful; in fact, but for the plantings and some beautiful, decorative tiled floors, everything here is white and off-white.

If some buildings make their statement with massive shapes or vibrant color, this complex makes it with form and line and proportion.

The word “organic” gets used to death, but that’s exactly what this architecture is.  It’s the comfortable, human scale of the place, the way the villas, each with its own unique layout, stair-step up the steep side of the cerro. Connected by winding stairways and sculpted half-walls, each space flows gracefully into the next.   

And the details. Everything’s built in as if part of a single work of sculptured stone—counters, sofas, planters, even beds. And nearly everything is curved. I mean it’s really hard to find a sharp, right-angle corner or edge in this whole place. Even stair edges are beautifully rounded off.

          The so graceful, yet grounded,
          so comfortable to both the eye and spirit.

Owner Valle describes this style as a blend, but it's primarily what’s known as Santa Fe style. Starting with what was originally a very old house, Valle, working with acclaimed architect Carlos Desormeaux, created VSS’s first two villas, with the first guests arriving in 1993. 

Several other architects, including Hector Palacios, Javier Renteria and Jose Luis Rodriguez have contributed over the years to the gradual addition of ten more units. (And more, including more amenities, are in the works.)

But Valle is quick to point out that the design process has been truly a cooperative effort, one fueled by his own aesthetic as well as contributions from his wife, Marissa, and key staff members.

There are many qualities that make Villas San Sebastian so appealing: its location, its management and employees, the thoughtful, unobtrusive service. I would keep coming back for those assets alone.

But what really sets the place apart for me is the esthetics. So graceful, yet grounded, so comfortable to both the eye and spirit. (And such a good workout climbing down and up some 90 steps to our villa number nine—near the top of the stack—at least once each day.)  

There are certainly trendier, more luxurious places to stay in Zihuatanejo. But, from our first booking at Villas San Sebastian in 2008, this warm, luscious, highly traditional architecture has captivated us.


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